The Phillies announced a number of non-roster invitations to big league camp this morning. While most of that group was either already in the system or had previously been reported to have an agreement with Philadelphia, a trio of new names with MLB experience were among the batch: righties Jeremy Walker and Mark Appel, and left-hander Ben Bowden.
Walker, 27, has six big league appearances to his name. Those came with the Braves back in 2019, when he worked 9 1/3 innings of two-run ball out of Brian Snitker’s bullpen. Walker had posted a 3.97 ERA with quality peripherals that season for Triple-A Gwinnett and looked to be a potential middle relief option for Atlanta. Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2020 season with a shoulder impingement and was released the following offseason.
The former 5th-round pick signed a minor league deal with the Giants shortly thereafter. He missed the entire ’21 season as well but returned to affiliated action last year. Walker made 28 appearances for San Francisco’s top affiliate, posting a 6.88 ERA over 35 1/3 innings in an extremely hitter-friendly environment. He had roughly average strikeout and walk marks and still attracted the interest of the Rays, who sent infielder Ford Proctor to San Francisco for Walker at the trade deadline. He closed out the year with 21 2/3 frames of 5.91 ERA ball for Tampa Bay’s top affiliate and didn’t get an MLB look before hitting minor league free agency.
Bowden also spent time in Triple-A with San Francisco and Tampa Bay last season. The 28-year-old began the season with the Rockies but landed in Tampa via waiver claim. The Rays successfully ran him through waivers and kept him in the minors before dealing him to San Francisco in late July. Between the three clubs, the Vanderbilt product posted a 5.46 ERA over 57 2/3 frames of relief. He punched out an excellent 29.9% of opposing hitters but had a similarly lofty 13.8% walk percentage.
A former second-round pick and Futures Game participant, Bowden has long tantalized with swing-and-miss stuff but struggled with shaky control in the minors. He’d spent his entire career in the Colorado organization prior to last year, reaching the majors in 2021. Bowden provided the Rox 35 2/3 innings of 6.56 ERA ball as a rookie, fanning 23.7% of opponents against an 11.9% walk rate. That’s his only MLB experience to date.
Appel is a more familiar name to Phillies fans. The former first overall pick looked as if he’d never reach the majors when he stepped away from the game after the 2017 season. He returned to the Philadelphia organization in 2021 and got another crack last year despite some initial rust. That paid off when Appel posted strong numbers at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In June, he secured his long-awaited big league call — making for one of the league’s better stories in 2022.
The 31-year-old allowed only two runs through his first 10 1/3 innings. He averaged 95 MPH on his sinker and racked up grounders at a massive 56.3% clip to put himself in the middle innings mix. That preceded an unfortunate battle with elbow inflammation that ended his season. At year’s end, Philadelphia ran Appel through waivers and sent him to free agency. He returns to the organization a few months later and will try to pitch his way back onto the 40-man roster.